UHI welcomes academic guests from South Africa

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have been welcoming guests from the University of Venda in South Africa as part of the University Staff Doctoral Programme. Funded by the South African Government and the British Council, the programme aims to help institutions in South Africa educate greater numbers of their academic staff to doctoral level, encourage greater links of research into teaching and enhancement, and contribute to international research.

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Left to right: Professor James Chakwizira, Dr Michelle Beattie, Professor Neil Simco and Shylet Nyamwanza

The collaboration involving UHI, University of Venda, and the University of the Free State is based on mutual research development interests and similar regional contexts, with campuses located in remote and rural areas. The research topics span a range of fields including education, natural resource management, and economic development.

The University Staff Doctoral Programme enables staff from the University of the Free State and University of Venda to undertake funded PhD studies, with a lead supervisor based in South Africa (where the students are formally registered) and co-supervision from experienced PhD supervisors at UHI. The programme facilitates exchange visits between South Africa and Scotland, allowing students and their supervisors to collaborate in person on their research projects.

In February 2023, several UHI supervisors travelled to South Africa to meet with students and their supervisors. This year, the students have begun making return visits to Scotland, starting with the UHI student conference in January 2024.

In June, UHI welcomed James Chakwizira, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, and PhD student Shylet Nyamwanza, hosted by Dr Michelle Beattie from UHI Centre for Rural Health Sciences. And in July, Dr Euan Bowditch, Researcher/Lecturer in Forestry and Social-Ecology will host Professor Peter Oluremi Adesoye and PhD student Precious Munyanduki.

Dr Beattie commented, “It has been a privilege to have our visitors here. It has provided an immersive opportunity to work closely with Shylet and Professor Chakwizira, accelerating Shylet’s PhD and exploring wider rural health research opportunities with our partners.”

Left to right: Precious Munyanduki, Dr Euan Bowditch and Professor Peter Oluremi Adesoye, standing outside the Scottish School of Forestry

Left to right: Precious Munyanduki, Dr Euan Bowditch and Professor Peter Oluremi Adesoye.

Dr Bowditch added, “We are thrilled to welcome our South African colleagues from the University of Venda to strengthen our ties, show them the beautiful Scottish landscape as well as the environmentally and cultural dynamics at play. Precious is looking at small agroforestry systems, exploring how they work, barriers to adoption and practice and their significance to sustaining villages and households. We will introduce them to forests and products of the Highlands, working on Precious’ PhD and comparing notes on forestry schools roughly 9,000 kilometres apart.”

Dr Iain Morrison, UHI Dean of Student Services and Graduate School, commented: “This collaboration demonstrates UHI’s global reach and the high regard in which our research staff are held. The South African students are benefitting from the expertise of our supervisors, whose own understanding and that of other UHI students, is being enriched through close collaboration on a wide range of projects, from the impact of herbicides on health to the influence of culture and personality traits on entrepreneurial success.”

Professor Neil Simco, Deputy Principal, remarked: “It was a privilege to personally welcome Professor James Chakwizira, and Shylet Nyamwanza to UHI House in Inverness. At UHI, we highly value international research collaborations, and we are particularly pleased to see the progress of this partnership with University of Venda and the University of the Free State.”